Essentials of Living: Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca

Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca

Choosing Happiness: A key to surviving the pandemic

The colors of the pandemic are 

Last Sunday, I turned on the television to a well-known pastor from Texas who was giving a sermon on happiness. The theme of the sermon, with examples from the Bible, and from everyday life, was choosing to be happy despite unpleasant or difficult external circumstances.

I have listened to many of his sermons earlier, and they are always positive and uplifting. All faiths and religions speak of how to be happy. It is the goal of human life to reach that state.  With temperatures dipping below the minus 30s and the icy, slippery sidewalks making it near impossible to go for a walk, and another wave of the pandemic looming large in the background, I welcomed his words. They echoed and reinforced the inspiring words my father taught me throughout my life. “Happiness is a choice,” he said. I still live by that truth and wrote about it in another recently published article about how my parents’ words helped me survive the pandemic.

Making happiness a choice is not a once-off, and it is especially difficult to do consistently in times of adversity. One must persist in adopting that attitude. It is a way of life. It is a mindset. One may fail and fall at times but getting up and trying again is the secret to happiness. Even if happiness comes in bursts, it is all right. Masks make it difficult to breathe and yet if you live to see a new day, you can breathe the breath of life.

Whatever happens
every day,
the sun shines on you.
Shine back!
Shine back!
Even if only
with a little pocket mirror.
(From Whispers by Nissim Ezekiel, sourced from The Brown Critique)

Social distancing is the new norm, but often social media bridges the distance between people. If you find the right virtual friends to talk to, life can be less lonely. You discover that we all share common feelings at this time. We are together in being alone, and yet not alone.
Winter can be a lonely time here, and the pandemic with all its restrictions, adds to the loneliness. Quoting from poet Chaitali Sengupta’s words:

Winter has but three shades,
Gray, and

No matter what we do to keep busy, boredom sets in, as our connection to others is limited. We all know the famous saying “Man is not an island.’ So, we must rely on our inner resources to give us strength. At the risk of sounding prescriptive, what has really helped me is reading, writing, prayer, looking at treasured old photographs, and unbelievably, taking pleasure in household chores. Of course, in the West, you have to do everything yourself. There are no maids or other helpers unless you can afford the prohibitive cost of labor.  It is easy to grumble and complain about chores, but as my wise neighbor said, ‘Just think how bored you would be if you had nothing to do.’ If you have a home, there is always something to do. I am surprised to find myself taking pleasure in doing my chores. Many times, I miss my mother. Things were so much easier when she was around to do everything, and I could study or work and go out with friends and come home to a delicious meal. So much gratitude for all mothers and those whose labors of love enrich their families.

In many countries there are natural disasters like fires, floods, and tornados that cause utter devastation. And then there is the human tragedy. The refugee crisis that is so overwhelming and heartbreaking to watch. If we put ourselves in their shoes, we learn to develop empathy which helps us remain thankful for all the blessings we have. Some of the refugees do not even have shoes or have lost them on the way.  There are many who are in a more challenging situation than me, and I think of them often, and pray for them. It puts my suffering in perspective.  An elderly neighbor told me that even a phone call is a way of socializing and is a welcome break in an otherwise lonely and dull day. I am surrounded by two other members of my family and two loving cats! It is still possible to feel lonely, and each family member also does their best to cheer the others up.

I have cited several personal measures I have taken to survive the isolation brought about by the pandemic.  I urge you to look within yourself, assert that you will succeed, and that you will remain unbeaten, that you will find productive and fulfilling activities that may take time to reveal their richness, and that you will not be deterred by the delay in real gratification, trusting that it will come.  The world is different now and to accept the changes and find peace and happiness depends on your determination to change with it. Motivation with new habits does not necessarily appear at the start… it develops on the journey. So, start! And difficult as it might seem, you will reach your destination.

Kavita Ezekiel Mendonca was born and raised in a Jewish family in Mumbai.  Her first book of poems, 'Family Sunday and other poems', was published in 1989. Her poem, 'How to light up a poem', was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her chapbook ‘Light of The Sabbath’ was published in September 2021. Her poems have been published in several anthologies and online journals.

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